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Scientists Develop Once-a-month Contraceptive Pill, Human Trials To Be Done Soon

Birth control pills are considered to be one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The pills are said to be 99.9 per cent effective in the prevention of pregnancy, however, does not protect one against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Also called as oral contraceptives, the pills are of different types such as combination pills (monophasic pills, multiphasic pills and extended-cycle pills) and progestin-only pills. Not every type of pill is a good fit for every woman. Various factors such as your menstrual symptoms, whether you are breastfeeding, cardiovascular health, possible chronic health conditions and use of certain medications can impact your choice of birth control pills [1] .

While using contraceptive pills, it is critical that you follow the routine. Almost 40 per cent of women who use contraceptive pills admit to missing a pill at least once every three months, and, as a result, about 9 per cent of women on oral contraception become pregnant every year [2] .

Studies and surveys have pointed out that more women would fall into the habit of consuming the pill on time if it were to be taken once a month or so [2] . This has been a topic of discussion for several years, since the advent of contraceptive pills, which has paved the way for the study, which will be discussed in the current article.

Scientists Develop Monthly Birth Control Pill

Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a team led by Robert Langer (who runs one of the world's largest chemical engineering labs at MIT) and Dr Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist carried out an experimental study which resulted in the development of a polymer, which can survive in the harsh, acidic environment of the human stomach for about 30 days [3] .

The polymer was loaded with levonorgestrel, a progestin, which is one of the common components used in manufacturing birth control pills. The developed pills were tested on animals and it was reported that the monthly pill released about the same amount of levonorgestrel in the blood each day as a daily pill.

The New Pill Does Not Pose Any Risk

As it is made up of a gelatin-coated capsule, the newly developed contraceptive pills consist of a tiny plastic device loaded with the contraceptive drug levonorgestrel. When consumed and upon reaching your stomach, the coating dissolves and the plastic device springs open [4]

The pill is developed in a way that when it springs open, it forms a six-armed star shape, where each arm has tiny compartments of varying sizes filled with the contraceptive drug. These compartments are in different shape, which indicates different amounts of the area exposed to the stomach environment - which in turn determines the speed the compartments take in dissolving and releasing the contents over a three-week period.

One of the major plus points of the pill is that it does not pose any risk. Unlike the existing long-term contraceptive pills and other methods that require an invasive procedure for implanting, the long-acting pill would give women more control over their contraception without the complications of implants and devices [5] .

Tests conducted on animals showed that the capsule could provide the same effect as taking daily doses. "We are hopeful that this work -- the first example ever of a month-long pill or capsule to our knowledge -- will someday lead to potentially new modalities and options for women's health," said one of the researchers of the study [6] .

The Researchers Will Soon Carry Out Human Trials

The research was carried out with the aim of conducting human trials and is in the process of developing new long-lasting contraceptive drugs to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies. The group of researchers searcher for materials that could survive a highly acidic fluid, and discovered that two types of polyurethane could work well for the arms and the central core of the star-shaped capsule [7] .

The capsule is designed to break down after three or four weeks and will exit the body through the digestive tract. The head researcher said, "further research is being conducted to develop the pill for human tests, which he hoped would be possible within three to five years."

On A Final Note...

Although there is an ambiguity in the amount of time required for the development of the pill to be considered for human consumption, the researchers indicated that it will be developed soon. With oral contraceptive is one of the most popular contraception methods used around the world, developing something that can be equally effective as well as of easy use can bring forth revolutionary changes in the field of birth control drugs [8] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Cooper, D. B., & Mahdy, H. (2019). Oral contraceptive pills.
  2. [2] Haring, M. P., Gouw, A. S., de Haas, R. J., Cuperus, F. J., de Jong, K. P., & de Meijer, V. E. (2019). The effect of oral contraceptive pill cessation on hepatocellular adenoma diameter: a retrospective cohort study. Liver International, 39(5), 905-913.
  3. [3] Odwe, G., Mumah, J., Obare, F., Wamukoya, M., Machiyama, K., Cleland, J., & Casterline, J. (2019). Factors influencing satisfaction with oral contraceptive pills and injectables among past users in Kenya. Journal of biosocial science, 51(4), 491-504.
  4. [4] Science Translational Medicine. (2019, December 04). Monthly Birth Control Pill.
  5. [5] Park, A, (2019, December 04). Researchers Make Progress Toward a Monthly Birth Control Pill. Retrieved from,
  6. [6] Abdelkadir, S., Tsadik, M., Ferede, S., & Gebremichael, H. (2019). Assessment of Knowledge, Attitude, Practice and Associated Factors of Emergency Contraceptive Pills among Female Youths in Mekelle City, Tigray Region, North Ethiopia. Research & Reviews: A Journal of Health Professions, 5(1), 7-21.
  7. [7] Mooney-Somers, J., Lau, A., Bateson, D., Richters, J., Stewart, M., Black, K., & Nothnagle, M. (2019). Enhancing use of emergency contraceptive pills: A systematic review of women’s attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and experiences in Australia. Health care for women international, 40(2), 174-195.
  8. [8] Kennedy, C. E., Yeh, P. T., Gonsalves, L., Jafri, H., Gaffield, M. E., Kiarie, J., & Narasimhan, M. L. (2019). Should oral contraceptive pills be available without a prescription? A systematic review of over-the-counter and pharmacy access availability. BMJ Global Health, 4(3), e001402.
Story first published: Friday, December 13, 2019, 20:00 [IST]
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